Raise your hand if you know the names of all 16 of your great-great-grandparents?
I’m guessing you may have just learned a second ago that you have 16 great-great-grandparents. That might sound a bit overwhelming, but the math adds up. Think about it. You have:
Which means, your squad includes 16 great-great-grandparents!
If you’re like me, you know something about your grandparents and maybe some of your great-grandparents, even if you never had the chance to meet them. What about the grandparents of YOUR grandparents? Very few people I’ve asked can name all 16 great-great grandparents.
Why is that?
Social identity is defined as your sense of who you are based on your group membership. We use these communities as shortcuts to belong and connect with our squad in a room full of people. (Shout out to Generation Xers!)
At work, companies call their employees family and team build using personality and behavioral assessments. Squads are meaningful to us. So why aren’t we more connected to the very first community we are born into? Before November of 2016, I hadn’t thought much about it myself. That’s my #16Greats Challenge for you. Go have the conversations, ask the questions, and do the research to identify the names of your 16 great-great-grandparents. Notice what begins to shift inside you when you can call your Ancestors by name.
Exploring your family genealogy is becoming an increasingly popular activity. It’s easier now than it’s ever been before. But how can you get started? These days people seem to think doing family research means taking a DNA test. That’s not where I started. I made tremendous progress in my #16Greats Challenge by having conversations, asking questions and doing the research with free online tools and resources. As I began learning more about who I am, where I come from, and what I’m capable of, the answers that I discovered led to even more questions.
This #16Greats Challenge isn’t just a monumental project, family genealogy is the rabbit hole of rabbit holes. So let me help you with 16 ways to get started.
Here are 16 questions I’ve asked, or would love to ask my elders and Ancestors:
- Where did you grow up?
- What kind of work did your grandparents do?
- Describe a moment that changed your life.
- What sustained you and kept you going when life was hard or painful?
- Who else should I have a conversation with about our family history?
- Tell me about a funny story, or a joyful moment from your life.
- What are your siblings’ names?
- What wishes or dreams did you have, and what did you do with them?
- Where did your aunts and uncles live?
- What were your favorite things to do when you weren’t working?
- What’s one thing you would change about how you lived?
- Could I please take a picture with you? (Where can I find a picture of you?)
- What moment is most memorable from your childhood?
- What’s your favorite song?
- How would you like to be remembered?
- What else should I know about our family?
How can the answers begin to shift the way you and your children think about yourselves, or what you are capable of? Go visit or call an elder in your family. Let me know if you learn something that you never knew until you started asking questions. If you had the opportunity to ask any of your Ancestors a question, what would you ask? Add your question to this list by posting a comment below.
Now that you’re jumping into this rabbit hole, it might be fun to connect with other researchers. I started a private Facebook group for people who are taking me up on my #16Great Challenge. We’re sharing resources, tools and celebrating our progress. This safe space is open to anyone seeking to identify the names of all 16 of their great-great-grandparents and to discuss family genealogy. Come on over!